Archives For social

Adland is drowning under a tidal surge of narrative-driven jargon. Everyone is now a storyteller. Every post is now part of a conversation. I’ve railed against this before but it has been to so little effect, I’m starting to believe I’m the marketing equivalent of the guy who washes his car just before every rainstorm.

 

Storytelling, narrative

We’ve opened the storytelling geyser.

 

The Five Types of Brand Narrative (from simple to  complex).

Seeing as we’re all getting into brand storytelling (at least until we decide we’re getting into the next thing, like, say, artisanal persuasion), we might as well see if we can’t create some sort of order from the chaos.

The First Type: An experience.

This type of marketing is striving to generate a feeling, an emotional reaction. This is really in the realm of branding (more specifically, brand association) and tries to hard-wire a correlation between the appearance or suggestion of a brand and a positive firing of neuro-somethings in your lateral sub reptilian cortex. (I’m sure someone like Rory Sutherland knows the exact medical terminology). This type of communication is subliminal and, over time, the customer response becomes Pavlovian. Think: Reef footwear and girls’ butts. Mercedes and their door-closing thud. Apple and their polished aluminum. A local example here in Singapore is Ion shopping mall and their carefully calibrated scent, continually pumped through the walkways to simultaneously relax and energise the consumer.

Constructing ‘experience’ marketing has traditionally been in the realm of sponsorships and activation, but within the digital world, the most adept practitioners now are probably UX and CX designers. If you are using mainly adverbs to describe your communication, your are probably building an experience.

message, broadcast, storytelling, brandsThe Second Type: A message.

This is a (usually) rational statement, expressed through language in a way that makes it easy for the audience to articulate back to you or, more encouragingly, to each other. That language can be textual (Think Nike and ‘Just do it’) or it can be visual (almost all car advertising; hotels, too). The message can be uplifting (Pedigree and their wonderful ‘We’re for dogs‘) or it can be really quite banal (Walmart’s Everyday low prices.) What’s important to note is that the reader has no role in this message, except to view it and understand it. We are not meant to construct our own meaning. In fact, quite the opposite. Traditionally, almost all advertising operated within this narrative type. Today, most of it still does. If you’re using mainly adjectives, you’re probably making a message.

 

The Third Type: A story.

This is a little more complex, a little messier. A story doesn’t have to necessarily be longer, but it should have some ups and downs. If not for the brand, then at least for the use-case of the product or, better still, for the audience. The ups-and-downs can be as simple as Vonnegut’s man in a hole, as formulaic as the classic 3 act structure or as sophisticated as Truby’s 22 steps, but it must have a range of action, both positive and negative. And this is why most brands can’t handle storytelling: they have no stomach for the negative, the ‘hole’ part of the Man In A Hole.

digital, technology, story, brands

Adding technology doesn’t always improve the story experience.

When you combine the Story format with digital media, all sorts of possibilities begin to emerge, but it’s important to remember that good stories are still linear, even when they are digital, or interactive (and these two things are not the same). If you want to dive into that distinction, the best explanation I’ve heard recently was from The Goggles, makers of Welcome To Pine Point, during their excellent session at SXSW.

Another realm in which technology is bringing new creative potential to traditional storytelling is the arena of Data Storytelling. Several interesting examples have emerged recently, although strictly speaking, these are stories told about data.

The key thing to remember about the Story format is that there is a range of action and emotion (including both positive and negative) and that the reader or audience is allowed some space to bring their own meaning or interpretation to the communication – another reason why some brands struggle to become true storytellers.

Even though stories may allow for some interaction (mainly in terms of navigation and pacing), they do not generally allow for user reaction and input. That belongs to…

The Fourth Type: A conversation.

The defining quality of a conversation is that it is two way. Back and forth. I say something, then you say something. Then I say something that is a reaction to that thing that you said.  Then you might have to abandon your script and think of something different to say that takes into account the thing that I just said.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 9.38.29 AM

The question remains: why?

And this really freaks brands out. Social media is a good arena to pursue a conversation format, but it does not automatically follow that your communications will be a conversation just because it is deployed on social media.

The most common criticism levelled at brands every time they take to a new social platform is that they treat it as a broadcast medium. They talk but they don’t listen. Or they listen, but they don’t respond. Or they respond but show no evidence of having understood what they heard. Or, most egregiously, no interest in understanding what they heard. “Join the conversation” is the classic direct response CTA, only slightly updated for Twitter.

The other difficult thing about the conversation format is purely a practical matter: it doesn’t scale. Technology hasn’t really solved this issue (just made it slightly easier to manage), because it is not a technological problem – it’s an inherently human one. We know this from real life. A single conversation can hold about four or five active participants before it either breaks into smaller discussions (Think: dinner party) or comes under the control of an active manager (Think: office meeting).

We see this now with the increasing recognition of the importance of Community Managers in executing these types of communications programs, and the pursuit of chatbots or ‘Embodied Conversation Agents’ that trick users into believing they are talking with another person. We’ve had the low-tech version of this for some time now: call centre scripts. Airlines, hotels and telcos have recognised the real use-value of conversation formats and simply added social channels to their existing customer service infrastructure. And it appears to be working.

The Fifth Type: An education.

Now it gets really interesting. And complex. This format works best when the brand has some information, some knowledge, that the audience may find useful. It really works when it becomes clear to the audience that this information is going to improve their life, or enjoyment of it, in some way.

education, brand, narrative, storytelling

Transmit knowledge and you’ll power up a deeper appreciation of your message.

The educational format does require some investment, attention, persistence and generosity (a ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude is a big help) on the part of the brand, but it doesn’t have to be a huge production. Digital is also consistently throwing up incredibly useful and user-friendly formats for education formats (Think: Lowe’s 6 second hardware tips on Vine). It is important to remember that you are placing a huge burden on the audience (Learning new things is hard work), so you need get the value exchange right. The audience has to believe the knowledge gained is worth more than the time and effort required to acquire it (Think: IBM’s NextGen CIO, an MBA-level shortcourse that helps IT Managers move from the server room to the boardroom).

Ironically, education formats can be as broadcast-y as you like, but take a tip from the people who do education for real: try to incorporate some sort of student feedback and scoring, to complete the transfer of learning.

Before I step off, I want to point out that none of these types of communication have been classified as content.

That’s because they are all content. This term was useful when we were emerging from the “advertising and PR” era, but social (in particular), has rendered the term meaningless, beyond a technical distinction between the delivery mechanism (the TV slot, the Facebook feed, the smartphone, the shopping mall aisle) and the thing that goes in those spaces (the ad, the post, the app, the scent). Beyond that, I think the term is now too broad to be truly useful.

Add a comment below if you’d like to join the conversation 😉

 

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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A couple of years ago, agencies went bananas* for Creative Technologists. Everybody started hiring them (except W+K, apparently) and so lots of people started adding that title to their LinkedIn profiles.

More recently, agencies have been creating Customer Experience roles. These are often based on more traditional UX skillsets, blown out to encompass more of the real-world touchpoints where customers meet and experience the brand, including call centres, retail environments, live chat, user groups, social networks and so on. Again, lots of people with related skills are recasting themselves with this title.

Here’s a prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 hiring ‘Growth Hackers’

This job title is emerging with warp velocity from start-up land, where it was originally coined by Sean Ellis in a post on his Startup Marketing blog. Growth Hacking originally described the low-to-no budget art and science of attracting new users to a brand new web-based start-up. Ellis describes a Growth Hacker as “someone whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”
Now the term is stretching and morphing to describe the pursuit of customer growth, to the exclusion of all other business-related pursuits.

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Growth Hack, agency, strategist,

Growth Hackers don’t wait for permission to launch.

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They’re part marketer, part coder, part strategist and all do-er. Growth hackers don’t learn to do, they learn by doing. They embrace that ‘fail fast, fail cheaply’ attitude to in-market experimentation. Instead of talking a lot about agile / scrum / lean / bootstrapping methodologies, Growth Hackers just fire up a browser, whip out the credit card and code together some existing services to create a new mini-machine for growth – one that can be switched off as soon as it stops firing.

Most importantly ‘Growth Hacking’ is the coolest newest skillset to emerge from startup land. Like most cool new things born of startup land, Ad Agencies will soon want some of that action.

Another prediction: Agencies will spend 2014 trying to figure out how to charge brands for ‘Hacking Growth’.

This will be the tricky bit. A lot of brands will probably sit in the Agency boardroom and listen to the Growth Hacker pitch, take a long, deliberate pause and then ask, in varying degrees of politeness: “Then what the fuck have I been paying for all this time?”

The other problem will be that true Growth Hacking is characterised by its lack of budget. Many claim that this lack of working dollars are precisely the precursor chemicals required for the bootstrapped, agile, bare knuckles marketing innovation (the ‘hacks’) that are the most valuable product of Growth hacking. Agencies are generally unfamiliar, if not downright uncomfortable, recommending their clients don’t give them wads of cash.

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marketing, funnel, growth hacking, agencies

Agencies and Growth Hackers already have this in common: funnel obsession.

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Hacking your growth to spite your agency model

Growth Hacking is lashed irrevocably to the mast of performance – everything is obsessively tracked and relentlessly analysed. When Growth Hacking starts emerging as a practice in large, established agencies, some parts of the business are going to be very familiar with this level of accountability (media, social) and some less so (creative, strategy). By contrast, newer, smaller agencies constructed of a small, senior team supported by an Agency Operating System will be, by definition, Growth Hacker agencies.

Another potential hiccup is individual agency, with a small ‘a’. Agency-side Growth Hackers will need authority to act and access to the tools that allow them to do so. Can they speak or act on behalf of the brand? Can they download a new app without needing IT to unlock their machine? Do they need Finance to pre-approve a subscription or software purchase? This procedural stuff is not trivial.

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Growth Hack, Agency, speed

Growth hackers don’t care whose ball it is.

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Speed is critical for Growth Hacking to be effective – under-exploited APIs have a limited lifespan as viable hacks. If you’ve got to make a pretty powerpoint and wade through rounds of meetings with the Vice President of No, the opportunity you want to hack might have already evaporated. By way of example, Airbnb famously ‘hacked’ Craigslist to get to build its own critical mass, now that hack has been shut down.

Prepare for the Growth Hack hype-o-thon

One of the clear indicators that Growth Hacking is not quite ready for big-brand prime time is the dearth of method and repeatability. This will be a fine line: too much process will kill the creativity at the heart of Growth Hacking but, like Social before it, some commonly accepted tools and best practices will have to emerge before it moves out of the garage.
Agencies are very familiar with creating processes and methodologies and frameworks, then packaging them to create perceived value. I have no doubt this will happen. I have no doubt it will also inspire the Growth Hacking backlash.

How agencies might get it right

Leaving cynical re-branding aside for a moment, I definitely see a place for Growth Hacking thinking, services, teams and talent, delivered within a traditional agency structure and applied to specific projects for established brands.

Think: new product launches; land-grab new market entries; activation campaigns; aggressive, short-term competitive plays.

Neil Patel is a leading educator in the Growth Hacking scene and he doesn’t see the role staying in startup-land for long, either:

“One more note on the future. For now growth hacking is relegated to startups, but eventually, growth hacking will be a part of fortune 500 companies. Startups generally lack resources, and the established relationships, that would allow them to be effective with the tactics of a traditional marketer, so they are somewhat forced to growth hack. However, there is nothing about growth hacking that cannot be applied to larger corporations. If growth hacking can work without resources, imagine what it can accomplish with resources.”

The part that makes me, on balance, optimistic about the rise of the role of ‘Growth Hacker’ is that it could offer a valid hybrid role for people who don’t fall into rigid definitions and job descriptions, yet still enjoy working alongside talented specialists on big brands to create things with genuine commercial impact. Agencies still have a chance at remaining one of the best places to do that from.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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* I really dislike bananas, by the way.

 

Then this happened:

A few days after I wrote the the post, Sean Ellis (quoted earlier in the post as the ‘coiner’ of the term) was kind enough to tweet this:

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Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking, twitter

 

 

The discussion has since moved over to Sean’s excellent new community at GrowthHackers.com where several people are saying they’ve already been approached by ad agencies for consulting gigs and roles in the last month or so. Which is a bummer for me, as it kind of screws with my prediction.

If only those agencies had waited till January 😉

 

As soon as something goes wrong in an agency (mercifully, not as common as you’d think) everyone starts yelling about process. Who followed it, who didn’t, why it doesn’t work and how it should. That’s the wrong time to be worried about process, frankly. What’s more interesting is how almost no-one, at these critical moments, ever pulls out a piece of paper with ‘The Process” written across the top and holds everyone accountable to it.

And that’s because the piece of paper doesn’t usually exist. ‘The Process’ is a mystical thing in most agencies, something akin to a belief system, that unites individuals of common vintages, departments and roles against pretty much everyone else, particularly when the shit starts meeting the Dyson Air Multiplier.

Why there really is no ‘The Process’.

Image by Martin Ollman

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‘The Process’ is rarely written down, partly because it’s hard, thankless work but mainly because the variables involved in producing (or even not producing) work in an agency have become awesome in scale, and a decision-tree style logic flow is simply unable to cope with reality. This is where software appears to be stepping in.

ERP-style approaches to the production process have been around forever, mainly in the form of print-production workflow management software that have grown over time to encompass digital and screen production. But they just monitor the process – they don’t really help you understand or improve it.

On the other end of the spectrum, big agencies like Ogilvy (the one I work for) have developed a series of tools  for integrated planning, briefing and delivery called Fusion, but these major on the intellectual end of the endeavour. At a more prosaic level, Fusion doesn’t really tell you what was supposed to be done today and whose throat you’ll have to choke to get it.

What both of these approaches have in common is a fairly high level of required investment: either in terms of straight-up dollars for software purchases or the kind of deep-bench global-network intellectual capital that’s required to develop something like Fusion from scratch.

Enter the cloud

Image by Martin Ollman

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Over the last few weeks, Adobe has been roadshowing it’s new Marketing Cloud offering which brings together 5 different analytics dashboards into a single management platform: it’s big on tracking and analytics, offering some Digital Asset Management and predictive capabilities. If they can get it to talk to Creative Cloud, it’s going to be fairly powerful for agencies where creatives and strategist and producers are already talking. (Just cos the software is integrated doesn’t mean the teams using the software are).

Adobe’s move came hot on the heels of SalesForce’s identically-named Marketing Cloud (maybe these guys could use some marketing themselves?) which appears to be social-media monitoring (their recent Radian6 acquisition) layered onto the one-push distribution platform of BuddyMedia. Similarly, the value proposition is insights-from-data, the model is pay-as-you-go and the experience is dashboard-heavy. Initial reviews were mixed for Adobe, slightly more positive for Salesforce.

In a truly software-inspired move, Shift shift.com has also entered the fray as an open-source marketing integration platform at a distinctly lower price point (read: free). This Venturebeat report lays out the basics, but it essentially draws together data from a host of specialist platforms into one uber-dashboard “somewhat analogous to Facebook’s social graph… sort of like Facebook for your marketing campaign.”

‘The Process’ as Operating System

These marketing cloud services seem to be pitched at advertisers – the marketing departments of businesses that actually sell stuff. This is inherently dangerous for agencies: if clients start to confidently handle their own execution, using platforms that automate and automagically improve performance, what the hell do agencies do?

What they should be doing, I believe, is to remain focussed on the strategic and creative thinking that is the heart of every good campaign, while simultaneously getting skilled up on these new ‘tools of execution’.

What does your Agency run on?

Image by Martin Ollman

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Where I think some of these cloud services could ultimately be very useful is as the Operating System of Agencies. I forsee a time where smaller agencies can start approaching larger clients, offering the bespoke thinking that agencies are really good at, with the flawless execution that, quite frankly, they are uniformly not.

For these cloud-based vendors, smaller (and maybe mid-size as well) agencies represent a whole new class of re-seller. An ecosystem of trained, certified and supported agencies, developing creative solutions and executing them via a sophisticated delivery platform could radically re-shape agency-land outside of the holding-company-conglomerate-networks. ‘Powered by SalesForce’ or ‘Adobe Cloud-Certified’ could be the ‘Authorised Dealer’ of the agency world. Any bets on how long it will take Google, Facebook and perhaps Amazon to start building/buying/rolling out their version of an Agency OS?

Interestingly, a few Agency infrastructure items washed up in my feeds while I was writing this: ViaMark in the states has re-launched it’s ‘Agency franchise’ model after mothballing it for a few years during the financial crisis, offering to standardise the back-end functions of billings and media booking for small local agencies; at the other end of the spectrum, this AdExchanger interview with Tim Hanlon suggests that mega Agency groups (like the upcoming Publicis-Omnicom merger) will need to arrange themselves as an ‘Agency Stack’ to remain relevant. If this recent attempt by Publicis to mandate Lotus Notes as their email infrastructure is anything to go by, there’s still work to be done. 

And now I have a question for all the senior-level big-agency dreamers out there: would you be more likely to consider starting your own agency if you had a pay-per-use OS that handled all the ‘busy work’ while you stayed focussed on the thinking and the clients?

Tweet your answer to @barrieseppings using #agencyOS

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Re-designing Demand Gen is hard.

So, if Demand Generation is all wrong, what’s the right way to build leads for b2b? There’s no easy answer (yeah, sorry about that), but we’re starting to see plenty of experiments and some successes using the new ‘favourite sons’ of the comms world: branded content, social media and, to a lesser degree, mobile.

I’m fairly certain none of these are the answer.

At least not on their own. And that’s where the next great trick of B2B marketing will have to be performed: making this stuff work as scale and at velocity. How do you get it humming, quarter after quarter, across markets both mature and emerging, in service of a portfolio of complex, inter-related products?

This is where systems thinking starts to shine. Instead of channels, we’re thinking infrastructure. Instead of messages, we’re thinking stories.  Instead of campaigns, we’re thinking education (in both directions). Perhaps, most importantly, instead of sales & marketing functions, we’re thinking systems of engagement.

Boiling the ocean: also hard.

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The more you start to think about all this stuff, about tearing it down and re-building it, about making common sense more common across all your markets, about establishing frameworks and operating procedures, the more you want to just go and find a shady tree to lie under. Sometimes I think it’s partly the reason we wind up churning out the same tactics in the same channels to ever diminishing applause: compared to this grand, uncharted territory of systems, at least we actually know how to buy a list and pump out the emails.

But that’s kind of boring.

Actually, it’s deadly boring. So we keep sketching and tinkering and experimenting (like we’ve always done), except now we’re also keeping an eye on the grand design, thinking about how that cool idea or interesting tactic or growing social platform might function if it were designed, from the ground up, to be a replicable, scalable and tune-able component of a system.

It’s actually quite liberating to recognise that the world (both ours and the audience’s) is not going to stand still long enough that we can ‘play god’ and re-design everything, perfectly, theoretically, as a completely fresh re-boot.

Instead, it makes more sense to apply the theory of responsive design to Demand Generation as a practice: create something, observe how people react to it, make the changes their behaviours seem to demand.

I wonder what that would look like?

How social is forcing Demand Gen to evolve.

Evolution is a remarkable thing. It sharpens yesterday’s skills to help us survive in tomorrow’s world. If you look at Demand Generation as a skill, you can trace it back to Direct Marketing, which in turn came from Direct Mail, which itself was an attempt to scale and automate Direct Selling.

Just as human evolution bred out things we no longer need (gills, for example) and enhanced things we found useful (opposable thumbs, anyone?), you can still see the core DNA of Direct Selling in a lot of what we call Demand Generation. In particular, the reliance on The List, which became so fundamental, it spun off it’s own evolutionary branch in the mid 1980’s (Database Marketing) in response to the new environment of personal computing.

So what happens to Demand Gen, and The List in particular, as it responds to the seismic shifts of, say, social media? Nobody’s entirely certain, but plenty of scientists are experimenting.

Your social behavior puts you on a list.

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

The likes of Kred and Klout are analysing social data to try and attribute a numeric ‘influencer score’ to individuals, ranking them in order of their ability to influence other people within certain communities or areas of interest. The obvious next step is to use these scores to create a ‘hit list’ of individuals you might want to include in a social outreach campaign, for example, and this has been marketing’s primary use of influencer scores to date, but the leap to a prospect list is still tenuous.

The list becomes a timeline.

 What if we took the same principles and tried to use them to create other predictors? Such as a ‘Propensity to purchase’ model? Or a ‘time to purchase decision’ estimate? Instead of using social as a way to decide who to contact, there is potential to use social to tell us when to contact, by listening for data points that signal where on the ‘road to purchase’ someone might be. Can their ‘social signals’ tell us whether a prospect is browsing, researching, comparing or looking for a deal? The next step from here is to look for patterns over multiple engagements, to build a model that starts to predict actual timelines: real-time ‘GPS for the buyers journey’ that locates a buyers’ proximity to a decision.

The list becomes a network.

networks

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

All this is ‘social scoring’ is fine in theory, but is based on the traditional B2C belief that purchases are made by an individual. The B2B world is more complex, particularly at the ‘big end of town’ were buying decisions are made by a group, operating within a hierarchy and often including people who aren’t the actual buyers. This is where the ‘network’ aspect of social networks comes into play: discovering and defining the membership of and connections within groups is the untapped data goldmine of platforms like LinkedIn. Several publishers in the B2B world are starting to mine their readership data to create ‘small world network’ models, which could be used to define these ‘buying cells’ and indicate which topics are on their collective agenda.

 So, social is the new list, then?

Social is getting a lot of airplay play right now. That’s partly because it’s a shiny new toy in the marketing playpen (I wrote about this in a recent post) but mostly because it’s where your audience is spending a lot of their time and energy, in a very visible, reachable and trackable way. That fact alone should stir something in the limbic system of most marketers: you fish where the fish are.

But it doesn’t mean The List is dead. Quite the opposite: The List is evolving. There are an increasing number of increasingly sophisticated ways to build, manage, mine and generate demand from The List. And a lot of those ways are yet to be discovered, let alone perfected, which I can’t help but find exciting.

Why are some brands and agencies struggling with social, despite (or perhaps because of) a visible enthusiasm for it as a marketing approach? Even once they master the jargon and the etiquette and the technical wizardry required to ‘go social’, and then resource it properly and secure executive sponsorship – social seems to, well, just…

It could be the curse of the newly-converted, or perhaps it’s FOMO*, but whatever the motivation, it manifests itself similarly each time: the team becomes overly-focused on social. Not as a tool, or as a channel or as a technique, but as a ‘thing’ in and of itself, with it’s own raison d’être. It’s dangerous, but not uncommon.

When social becomes the objective.

It tends to happen with most shiny new technologies, usually once the technology gets enough media coverage and certainly once the Vice-President’s kids start using it on a regular basis. Happened with digital. It’s been kind of happening with mobile, in fits and starts, for a while now. It’s about to happen full-throttle with ‘content’. And it’s in full swing with social. We’re all doing it, but we’re not always entirely sure why.

Here’s a simple test: replace the shiny new technology (social) with a trusted, reliable, commonplace technology (say, telephone). Would some of the briefs or programs or even job titles we’re pursuing make as much sense? Would you consider hiring a Vice-President of Telephone? Would we build up a Telephone Team, with dedicated Telephone Experts? Would we unleash a 65-page deck detailing our Telephone strategy? Prolly not.

Make social behave like a channel.

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

(image courtesy Martin Ollman / BugLogic)

I’m not suggesting we don’t need expertise in new technologies. In fact, we need expertise in all of our technologies – that’s how we get good at profiting from them. But what we need, most of all, is purpose: a reason to put these technologies and expertise and resources to use.

Here’s how you find one for social in your business, or brand or agency:

  1. Find a business objective.  Or even a business unit or a department, because they will usually (not always) have an objective, or at least a role to play within a business.
  2. Describe how that objective is being tackled right now. Who is working on it? What resources do they have? What are the results like? Are they getting better at it over time, or less-better**?
  3. Ask ‘social’ how they would do that tackling. Does it sound like they could support it? Augment it? Improve it? Replace it altogether? Make social ‘play its way’ on to your marketing team and earn its position through performance. (BTW, does anyone know why I, of all people, am using a sports analogy? Really, I’d like to know what’s gotten into me.)
  4. Give social a run. But not on its own. Invite it to meetings, let it join existing teams and projects and departments, either as resource or skills or training. Make sure it has a defined role, a position to play and results to deliver.
  5. Rinse (the data) and repeat. It’s the fastest way to get better at discovering what social can do for you.

In a nutshell: social can’t be an objective, it has to have one.

Placing bets vs making investments.

The reason I used ‘Telephone’ to replace ‘Social’ is because it’s also a good way to think about the investment we make in social – and not about the size of the investment, but rather its consistency. If we set up a phone number for our audience to reach us on, we wouldn’t follow that decision with a series of quarterly meetings to decide whether we’re going to pay to keep that number connected, or to have someone pick it up when it rings. As the use of social normalises (just like it did with phones) we’ll have to normalise our investment in it, too.

* Fear Of Missing Out.  It’s a real thing, apparently.

** A polite way of saying “Starting to suck”